EXPLAINED: How to drink wine like a Swiss

When foreigners think of ‘typically’ Swiss foods, cheese and chocolate naturally come to mind. Not many people know, however, that Switzerland is also a wine producing (and drinking) nation.

With little practice, you’ll master the art of drinking wine like the Swiss do. Photo by Zan on Unsplash
With little practice, you’ll master the art of drinking wine like the Swiss do. Photo by Zan on Unsplash

Many people abroad have no clue that Switzerland produces its own wines because, unlike cheese and chocolate, wine is not widely exported.

In fact, Switzerland exports only 1 percent of its wine. As a comparison, neighbours Italy and France sell abroad 20.8 percent and 13.6 percent of their wine production respectively – including to Switzerland.

The reason is that Switzerland’s 1,500 vintners in six wine-growing areas (Geneva, German-speaking Switzerland, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, and Three Lakes region), barely yield enough grapes to satisfy the domestic demand, much less quench the thirst of other nations.

This is where Swiss wine regions are located. Image: Switzerland Tourism

More than 250 varieties of grapes grow in Switzerland. The most popular is Chasselas (white) — a 12th-century native Swiss variety that originated on the shores of Lake Geneva.

It is still the most dominant grape of the Vaud region, where it makes up 61 percent of the total production. It’s  grown widely in the other Swiss wine regions  as well, including in Valais, where it is known as Fendant.

Chasselas is also the main grape in Switzerland’s most famous (and spectacularly picturesque) wine-growing area of Lavaux in Vaud. The terraced vineyards sloping into Lake Geneva were recognised in 2007 as the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The terraced vineyards of Lavaux. Photo: Région du Léman

Other popular varieties include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Merlot, Humagne Rouge, Arvine, Savagnin Blanc, Gamaret, Garanoir, Pinot Gris and, in Ticino, Merlot.

What wine do the Swiss like to drink most?

Like everything else in Switzerland, it depends on the canton. Or rather, on the town / village where people live — a reflection of grassroots patriotism so prevalent in this country.

As so many communities produce their own wines from local grapes, residents tend to favour regional wines, though they sometimes do buy bottles “imported” from other areas of Switzerland.

What you should know about wine drinking in Switzerland

You will probably notice that corks pop as soon as at least two people get together, often regardless of what time of the day or night it is.

If you are not a wine aficionado, you may have problems making friends in Switzerland (of course, you could have problems making friends anyway, but that’s an entirely different topic).

In fact, if you refuse a glass of wine without immediately offering medical reasons, you will be eyed suspiciously by the Swiss.

That’s because wine is not only an integral part of social interactions, but a bonding experience as well, which can’t be replicated by drinking, say, a Coke or mineral water.

This is what you should know to fit in

Not surprisingly, given how Swiss people are sticklers for the rules, there is a certain etiquette involved in wine drinking.   

To many Swiss people, French wines are, needless to say, inferior (as everything French is), and don’t even try to sell them on Italian or Spanish wines. They will, literally and figuratively, turn up their noses at them. That’s the first point.

Secondly, but just as importantly, if you drink with a Swiss friend, you don’t shout “bottoms up”, then unceremoniously chug your wine down and ask for more. You have to hold your glass by the stem, look into your friend’s eyes, preferably without blinking, for at least five seconds, then clink your glasses.

Only then can you sip your wine, praising its fragrance, aroma, depth of colour, and the Swiss region it came from.

A couple of interesting facts about Swiss wine:

  • Switzerland has the smallest vineyard in the world (you didn’t expect it to have the largest, did you?)
    Saillon, in Valais, measures 1.6 square-metres and has been owned by the Dalai Lama since 1999. 
  • It also boasts Europe’s highest vineyard. Below the village of Visperterminen, also in Valais,  lies Europe’s highest vineyard at an elevation of between 650m and 1,150m above sea level.

Cheers to that!

 EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so obsessed with cheese?


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REVEALED: Are these the ‘best’ places to live in Switzerland?

German-speaking cities dominate the list in a new quality of life in Switzerland study - here are the best places to live in the Alpine country.

REVEALED: Are these the 'best' places to live in Switzerland?

Zurich, Geneva, Basel are all beautiful cities with plenty of offers for their residents, but which would top the list of the best place to live in Switzerland? Turn out, none of them.

A new quality of life study commissioned by the daily newspaper Handelszeitung looked into several criteria to determine the best places in the country. The Gemeinderatings 2022 evaluated 944 municipalities with more than 2,000 inhabitants to make the ranking.

READ ALSO: Health, prices, and safety: Is Switzerland a good country to retire in?

Among the criteria to determine how attractive each area is, they looked into taxation issues, how safe the cities are, how many jobs are available, the quality of the real estate market (both when buying and renting properties) and the level of support for elderly residents.

Additionally, Handelszeitung looked into matters such as the availability of leisure offers, access to public transportation, and sustainability factors as well.

These are the top ten places to live in Switzerland:

  1. Cham, Canton Zug
  2. Zug, Canton Zug
  3. Risch, Canton Zug
  4. Altendorf, Canton Schwyz
  5. Walchwil, Canton Zug
  6. Meggen, Canton Lucerne
  7. Meilen, Canton Zurich
  8. Hergiswil, Canton Nidwalden
  9. Hünenberg, Canton Zug
  10. Baar, Canton Zug

German-speaking Switzerland dominates the list

The best city, Cham, did exceptionally well in the criteria of taxes (reaching the fifth spot) and real estate (11th in the ranking for this criteria). The neighbouring city of Zug secured second place, followed by Risch, all in the same canton.

Switzerland’s French or Italian-speaking areas have certainly not fared well, and all the country’s top ten cities are in German-speaking cantons. Moreover, Canton Zug gets an impressive number of six towns (and the top 3) in the best 10.

READ ALSO: MAP: The best cantons for business in Switzerland

The first French-speaking city in Switzerland to show up in the ranking comes only in 63rd place: Pregny-Chambésy, in the canton of Geneva. Then, Saint-Sulpice (VD) follows in 69th place, Carouge (GE) in 73rd, and Lutry (VD) in 95th).

Italian-speaking Switzerland does even worse: it only appears in 90th place with Collina d’Oro.